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June 5, 2023
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Temple Prostitutes
Produced by: Kati Whitaker
Temple Prostitutes A group of former devadasis - or Temple Prostitutes - are fighting to eradicate a centuries-old Hindu tradition which turns them into prostitutes. Originally, devadasi were celibate dancing girls used in temple ceremonies and they entertained members of the ruling class. But sometime around the 6th Century, the practice of "dedicating" girls to Hindu gods became prevalent in a practise that developed into ritualised prostitution. The girls are mainly of the lowest class, 'untouchables,' and their fight is the ultimate clash of ancient and modern culture in India. The prevalence of the devadasi tradition in parts of Southern India, in particular, means that social acceptance of sex work in Karnataka State is common with devastating consequences for the spread of HIV/AIDS. Hear the heart-wrenching story of Joythi, a young 'devadasi' or temple prostitute. Joythi, her two small children, and her entire family depend on the income she receives from bestowing her divine gift on her clients. But the truth is that she is no more than a common prostitute, and as such is in a very dangerous profession. Award-winning documentary-maker Kati Whitaker travels to the south of India to meet Joythi - and the small group of former devadasis who are trying to persuade her to leave the profession.

Program Credits

Temple Prostitutes was produced by Kati Whitaker of the BBC. It airs as part of the international documentary series, Crossing Boundaries.


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Being a devadasis for low-caste citizens means being prostitutes and being under constant threats of attracting HIV.

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In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India
by: Edward Luce 2008
Luce takes an interesting look at the current state of India, in comparison to its economic competitors. The book also looks at the cultural aspects that determine the Indian attitude and gives a well balanced dose of the good and bad elements that makes this country one to keep an eye one.

The Bandit Queen of India: An Indian Woman's Amazing Journey from Peasant to International Legend
by: Phoolan Devi, Paul Rambali, Marie-Therese Cuny, Paul Rambali, Marie-Therese Cuny 2006
Devi, a member of the lowest clan in India's caste system, became a symbol of hope for low caste women after she defied the socio-economic norms and provided justice to victims when the government would not.

Slave of God: A devadasi's Tale
by: Alissa Hall 2008
Abandoning her life as a medieval princess, Lakshimi Cholan becomes Master Mananda's temple slave, and under his tutelage, is introduced to the mysteries of Tantra.

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